Oil #5: Imagine A World Without Oil : Planet Money Last of five episodes. We follow the Planet Money oil to a gas station. And we ask: What would our world look like if there were no fossil fuels?
NPR logo

Oil #5: Imagine A World Without Oil

  • Download
  • <iframe src="https://www.npr.org/player/embed/491216303/491245772" width="100%" height="290" frameborder="0" scrolling="no" title="NPR embedded audio player">
  • Transcript
Oil #5: Imagine A World Without Oil

Oil #5: Imagine A World Without Oil

  • Download
  • <iframe src="https://www.npr.org/player/embed/491216303/491245772" width="100%" height="290" frameborder="0" scrolling="no" title="NPR embedded audio player">
  • Transcript


All right. Where are we again?


We're between Waterville and Blue Rapids.

SMITH: And just to recap the folks at home...


SMITH: ...What happened in previous episodes of PLANET MONEY? Go.

VANEK SMITH: OK. We purchased oil from Jason Bruns in Kansas.

SMITH: We bought a hundred barrels. We transported it to a pipeline. The pipeline went to the refinery. The refinery turned it into diesel.


SMITH: And then it sent it across Kansas. And so what we are is in the middle of Kansas, in the middle of cornfields, looking for our pipeline.

VANEK SMITH: Hi, this is Stacey Vanek Smith.

SMITH: And I am Robert Smith. This is it. This is the last episode about our oil's journey, which is now PLANET MONEY diesel. And we're going to follow it all the way to Council Bluffs, Iowa.

VANEK SMITH: And into somebody's actual car.

SMITH: But right now, we're on the side of the road, staring out at cornfields, looking for little, tiny signs telling us where our diesel is at this moment.


SMITH: So can you read any of those? I'm not going down there.

VANEK SMITH: Oh, wait, OK, warning - underground cable. That's not it.

SMITH: Following the oil pipeline is a lot harder than it sounds because pipelines travel in a straight line and roads do not. So we spent a lot of time driving north, south, east, west, trying to intersect with a pipeline, looking for one thing.

Wait, wait, wait, right, right, right, right, right.

VANEK SMITH: Oh, I see it. I see it. Good eyes, Robert Smith.

SMITH: And so we become the only tourist in the history of Kansas to go down to take a picture of this little sign.

VANEK SMITH: Warning - petroleum pipeline. There's a tiny oil derrick on it.

SMITH: Oh, yeah. And it's a, like, a bright yellow sign, and, of course, there's lightning in the distance.


SMITH: Always nice to see when you're following a pipeline. But what it means is that somewhere under our feet at this moment is the PLANET MONEY diesel fuel somewhere in this tube.

VANEK SMITH: Along with a whole bunch of other stuff.

SMITH: Yeah. This is a question a lot of people have asked, which is like, wait, what? Is the PLANET MONEY oil just mixed in with everybody else's stuff? And the answer is sort of yes and no. Pipelines do not just carry one kind of product. This totally blew my mind. They can send a batch of airline fuel. For a couple of hours, they're feeding nothing but airline fuel. And then right behind it, they can do a batch of diesel, and then they could put a batch of regular gas. They're all sort of right next to each other like train cars.

VANEK SMITH: And it all ends up at a tank farm in Council Bluffs, Iowa, which is basically a whole bunch of tanks in a field. And...

SMITH: It's lovely.

VANEK SMITH: (Laughter) This is where the gas gets stored and delivered to customers. And here we meet Larry Bose (ph). He is a pumper gauger with CHS, Inc. That is the company that refined our oil.

SMITH: And what that means is that Larry gets a sheet of paper that tells him when the different kinds of petroleum fuel arrive, and he diverts it to the correct tank. So it says basically on the list when PLANET MONEY's diesel is going to arrive.

LARRY BOSE: About 4 o'clock in the morning, we're going to get a batch changed to diesel in here. And when it does, it's going to set off an alarm here.

SMITH: Do you have to press a button to do that?

BOSE: Nope, I'm going to run right out here and open one valve to a tank and close the other valve.

SMITH: No, no, no, no, no, no, no (laughter) you're manually going to, like, turn a wheel.

VANEK SMITH: Does it take a lot of, like, elbow grease to turn it?

BOSE: No, I think you could do it.

VANEK SMITH: (Laughter).

BOSE: I'm serious.

VANEK SMITH: Apparently, very easy to turn, that valve.

SMITH: And, you know, I nominate you, Stacey, to stay up till 4 in the morning to get the sound of the (imitating squeaking valve).

VANEK SMITH: No, he only thinks I could do it. He's not sure. I think we need some serious PLANET MONEY brawn, Robert. Only you can bring that. I'm not getting up at 4 in the morning.

SMITH: We both went to sleep. The next morning, we tried to think, like, where would the PLANET MONEY fuel end up eventually? It's probably in a tank the next morning if it came in at 4 in the morning. But we do know that these diesel tanks feed the Cenex brand gas stations. So we went to a Cenex brand gas station only a few miles from where the pipeline ended.

VANEK SMITH: Oh, hey, are you getting gas today?

TOM: I am.


We got to the Cenex station, and we descended on this man Tom. He is a math teacher in Council Bluffs, and he was trying to fill up his car.

SMITH: Do you know where this oil comes from?

TOM: Well, I guess my initial assumption would be Saudi Arabia possibly, somebody, you know, one of the countries that produce oil and ship to the United States I guess.

SMITH: You don't think about it very much (laughter).

TOM: Not really. I prefer it to be from the United States someplace, but, no, I guess I don't, so let me...

VANEK SMITH: Actually, this oil came from Kansas.

TOM: Oh, it did. OK.


TOM: Came from Kansas, OK. Well, that's great.

VANEK SMITH: We were so excited to talk to Tom. We were so excited to talk.

SMITH: We - it's hard to explain to someone this entire project in the two minutes that he's filling up his tank, but we tried.

VANEK SMITH: Well, you bought our oil, I think, so we wanted to, like, shake your hand and...

TOM: OK, do I get something for it or...

VANEK SMITH: You get 14.5 gallons (laughter)...

TOM: Free?

VANEK SMITH: ...Of premium Kansas wheat.

TOM: Oh, OK, all right...

SMITH: No, we have to make our money back, so we have to charge you.

TOM: All right. OK.

SMITH: And so I took his money.


SMITH: No, no, no, no, no, no, no. He paid the Cenex. The Cenex paid CHS, the refiners. The refiners paid the middleman. The middleman paid us. And we paid Jason - is that the way it works?


SMITH: Something like that.

VANEK SMITH: We only lost $800.

SMITH: (Laughter) Exactly. We should've just sold it straight to him and tried to recoup our investment.

But we did not. We thought he would just be delighted with the story. But there is this problem with doing this whole oil and gas series, and that is that the end of it is so mundane - filling up the tank in your car. You don't even think about it. It just sits there. It's the most boring thing in the world. And every time we tried to tell people look at the miracle, really a miracle that just happened, that some plankton laid down their lives millions of years ago and just waited in the ground for PLANET MONEY to come along and pull it out, transforming it in just a couple of days from this prehistoric stew, really, in Kansas to driving a car in Iowa. It is a miracle.

VANEK SMITH: Yes, it is a miracle. And for all the problems that oil causes - and it causes some pretty big problems - it's a pretty miraculous substance. In fact, trying to imagine a world without oil is almost impossible because not only is there oil in the tank of Tom's car, there's also oil in the plastic in Tom's car. It's in his shoes. It's in his jacket. It's in his cellphone.

SMITH: Now that we've come to the end of our brief and very unprofitable journey through the oil business, we wanted to take a step back. Today on the show, David Kestenbaum and Jacob Goldstein ask a simple and pretty profound question - what would the world be like without oil?



Jacob, when we started doing this series on oil, there was one morning where I came into the office and I said to you, have you ever thought how amazing it is that there was just this huge source of fuel and energy right beneath our feet? The more and more I thought about it, the more I felt like I don't know where we would be without it. I don't - could we have built this world that we live in today without fossil fuels? Because it does seem like this gift just from an energy perspective.


Yeah. I had definitely never thought about it that way. I mean, to be honest, I'd never really thought about it at all, but when you say the phrase fossil fuel, my emotional reaction is negative. You know, I think - I think pollution. I think climate change. And so - I don't know - if I think, what would the world be like if we had never had fossil fuels? I don't know. Maybe we'd be better off if we didn't have them. You know, what we are now minus the climate change.

KESTENBAUM: When I was looking for people to help us think through this, I sort of got two categories of responses. One was like, no, thank you. I'm a serious historian. I do not do speculative alternative histories. But the other response was that is a totally fascinating question.

GOLDSTEIN: That is the correct response. And we talked to two people in particular.

DAVID KEITH: I'm David Keith. I'm a professor of - whatever it's called.

KESTENBAUM: It's called applied physics at Harvard, also public policy.

GOLDSTEIN: Here's the second person we talked to, and for some reason, the can you introduce yourself portion of the interview was causing some problems.

Can you introduce yourself?

JOEL MOKYR: To whom?

GOLDSTEIN: To everybody who's listening to PLANET MONEY.

MOKYR: Yeah, I can do that (laughter). I'm Joel Mokyr. I'm a professor of economics and history at Northwestern University.

KESTENBAUM: David and Joel come at this question from different directions. David is a scientist, kind of an energy nerd, thinks about fossil fuels a lot.

KEITH: On the one hand, I've worked on climate change for half my life, so I've been fighting the fossil fuel world forever. So in some ways, I do see it as the enemy, but also I know how the energy system works, and so I don't fool myself.

KESTENBAUM: Fossil fuels, he says, they are an amazing source of energy.

GOLDSTEIN: So David is a scientist. Joel Mokyr, on the other hand, he thinks about the the great sweep of history.

KESTENBAUM: So to set the stage, we said, OK, historian, tell us what life was like before people really started using fossil fuels in, like, the 1700s. His answer - not good.

MOKYR: Terrible, lots of hard work, back-breaking work, always a danger of not having enough to eat, threat of famine looming over one's life every day, infant mortality that was reaching, you know, 300 or 350 per thousand.

KESTENBAUM: Does that mean a third of all newborns die?

MOKYR: A third of all newborns died in infancy or before the age of 1, yes, there about.

KESTENBAUM: You can look at this and say, what we needed was science, but you could also see this as an energy problem. You want some source of energy to cook food or heat your house? Basically, you got trees. You cut down a tree, chop it up, burn the wood. We were just living off the surface of the Earth.

GOLDSTEIN: David Keith, the scientist, he says trees are not that great as far as sources of energy go. For one thing, trees are kind of spread out. You know, like, there's a tree here, then you've got to go 10 feet to the next one. And for another thing, he says, when you cut a tree down, you've got to wait, you know, a hundred years for another one to grow again.

KESTENBAUM: He says, compare that to coal.

KEITH: Coal comes in these huge, thick seams where you can just dig it out by the ton. Individual people with hoes can dig it out by the ton, and that gives you this concentrated source of energy that's geographically concentrated.

KESTENBAUM: So coal is sort of like millions of years of wood that was just stacked in the basement there for us.

KEITH: Well, in fact, it's not sort of like millions of years of wood that's stacked in the basement. That's essentially literally what it is.

KESTENBAUM: Jacob, my favorite slang for oil is dinosaur juice. It's just not true, though (laughter). Like, there may be an atom of dinosaur in oil, but it's mostly...



GOLDSTEIN: I mean, there's an atom of dinosaur in anything. Like, there's an atom of dinosaur in you.

KESTENBAUM: I'm, like, 50 percent dinosaur, one of the small ones that runs really fast away from everything.

GOLDSTEIN: Fight or flight - easy call.

KESTENBAUM: (Laughter) So given all this, we asked them both the question - where would we be today if there had been no fossil fuels in the ground? Like, how would history have unfolded? Basically, would we have been screwed?

GOLDSTEIN: The way we did it is we ran through some key historic moments and asked both of them how things might have gone in this parallel universe where fossil fuels did not exist.

KESTENBAUM: One of the first really big moments for fossil fuels comes in the 1800s - trains, railroads, you know, coal-powered steam engines pulling all these people and all this stuff across the country. And maybe you're like, trains - snore.

GOLDSTEIN: Obviously, I am not like that, right? Like, trains are clearly a huge moment, like, the moment when the modern world comes charging at us. You know, for the first time, you can travel over land faster than a horse. This is a huge breakthrough.

KESTENBAUM: Could you have railroads if you didn't have fossil fuels? Like, what would have happened?

KEITH: Absolutely. America only became more than half fossil-fueled roughly in 1900. Before that, we had an enormous input of wind-powered energy. If you think about the big steam engines moving across western North America, a lot of those were powered by wood, not by coal.

KESTENBAUM: Oh, and some of them were running off wood.

KEITH: Most of them were running off wood. Wood was a dominant fuel.

KESTENBAUM: If you powered the railroads off wood, aren't you going to cut down an enormous number of trees?

KEITH: We cut - we cut down, like, 97 percent of the original forest in the lower 48 United States. We basically got it all.

KESTENBAUM: So we were going to run into some limits there.

KEITH: No kidding.

GOLDSTEIN: That clearly sounds very bad. But Joel Mokyr said, you know, think about the economics here. In this parallel universe where there is no fossil fuel, wood would have been really precious, really expensive. And so you would have had lots of people getting into the wood business, growing new trees to sell the wood.

KESTENBAUM: And he says, thinking about railroads, there were alternatives. Like, we could've relied more on rivers, you know, maybe would've built a bunch of canals all over the place. Economists have actually studied what would have happened without railroads, he says. It's not that bad. Getting around is a little slower, and it costs a little more.

MOKYR: Turns out, it is more expensive as every - but not so much more that we would have had completely to - we would have remained some kind of medieval economy. We would have been a different economy with much more canals.

KESTENBAUM: Right. What would have powered the boats on the canal?

MOKYR: Well, the way they always would. We would've...

KESTENBAUM: Horses pulling them.

MOKYR: ...With horses. That's how - that's how canals - that's how canal barges always been...

KESTENBAUM: That sounds bad.

MOKYR: No. It doesn't. It's a little bit slower, but it is - you know, what's the value of time?

KESTENBAUM: For those of you who don't know, the horses were not swimming pulling the barges. They were alongside pulling the barges through the canal.

GOLDSTEIN: Mokyr says, look, there were lots of other paths that we could have gone down. And yeah, I mean, some of them seem a little bit weird, but that's just because we're locked into thinking about the world as it is.

KESTENBAUM: OK, so trains that run on wood, we've got more canals. I can see that world. I can see how you could get by with that. But it leaves out this big thing, right? Electricity. What - how do you do electricity?

GOLDSTEIN: Yeah, that really feels like the big one, right, like, the center of this whole thing. And it comes along just not that long after trains take off. 1882 - Thomas Edison builds the first central electric power station...

KESTENBAUM: Right here in Manhattan.

GOLDSTEIN: Yes, it's a few miles from where we are. It gives 82 people electric lights. It is the beginning of electrification. And, of course, Edison's power plant ran on coal. And, you know, how else would you have run that power plant?

MOKYR: We would have had to generate much more electricity from water.

KESTENBAUM: Would you have run it off - what? - the Hudson River or something or is that...

MOKYR: Yeah, we would've had to build dams on the Hudson River to run electricity. We could have generated inways that were never seriously tried, like tidal mills.

KESTENBAUM: Tidal mills - what are tidal mills?

MOKYR: Tidal mills are mills that were actually used (laughter) in the Middle Ages. They used the movement of water through the tides. And so the mill's stuck in coastal waters, and it's moved in one direction when the tide is in and it moves in the other direction when the tide is out. That creates power.

KESTENBAUM: So it's like lunar power.

MOKYR: It's essentially lunar power, yes.

GOLDSTEIN: Kestenbaum, I actually believed in this idea as he was explaining it. OK, the tide comes in and out. But then you called it lunar power. And it's like, oh, this is just some hippie dream.

KESTENBAUM: (Laughter) All right. Say you got lunar power, right? Still, what are you going to do about cars?

GOLDSTEIN: Yeah, that's, like, the next big one, right? It's just a few decades after Edison. Henry Ford comes along. What's Henry Ford going to do if there's no gasoline?

KESTENBAUM: Two words - electric cars.


JAY LENO: I've got an electric car. It's quite advanced. It goes 100 miles on a charge, and it was built in 1989.

KESTENBAUM: That's the Baker Electric. It's an electric car from, like, the early 1990s.

GOLDSTEIN: It's Jay Leno in this YouTube video driving around in this old car. It looks like - I don't know - like just a box on wheels.

KESTENBAUM: Doesn't it look like what Cinderella took to the prom?

GOLDSTEIN: Oh, yeah, the horseless carriage. It's the horseless carriage.

KESTENBAUM: It's, like, quite elegant. It's, like, for a queen.

GOLDSTEIN: It was not prom, for the record.

KESTENBAUM: I know, but, like, electric cars were a thing back then. Henry Ford's wife, she drove an electric car. She liked it better than her husband's invention that ran off gasoline.

GOLDSTEIN: There is a problem with electric cars. Even today, there's a problem. They just don't go that far.

KESTENBAUM: Even with modern batteries. We asked Joel Mokyr about that.

MOKYR: Battery technology turns out to be a difficult but, you know, imagine a world in which, you know - we're not terribly good at building batteries so each battery only lasts - I don't know - 40 miles. OK. Well, then we would have had to build a network in which every 40 mile you stop your car, you loosen two screws, take out the old battery, put in a freshly loaded one and keep, you know, tugging along. Yeah, that would have been a bit of a hassle but, you know, lots of things are hassles.

KESTENBAUM: All right, what about this one - airplanes. How do you do airplanes, my friend?

MOKYR: You don't.

KESTENBAUM: Not for a while anyway. Again, though, he says not a disaster. You know, you can still take a boat across the ocean and maybe there would be blimps.

MOKYR: You know, we did, for a while, experiment with a technology that actually, you know, worked reasonably well. And those were dirigibles.

KESTENBAUM: Blimps - you and Joel bonded for a while over blimps.

GOLDSTEIN: You know, the Empire State Building, the tower was built as a docking place for blimps, which I love. Like, when I'm flying into JFK and, like, I got to get a car and it takes me, like, an hour to get wherever I'm going, imagine, like, what if my blimp could just dock at the Empire State Building?

MOKYR: I know. Doesn't it sound fantastic? And not only that, but there's no noise. In many ways, it's an extremely pleasant way of traveling.

KESTENBAUM: Can I ask you a totally random one? Would we have gone to the moon?

MOKYR: I don't know. Probably not. So what?

KESTENBAUM: Talking to Joel, I actually kind of came around a bit to his side. Like, maybe things would be fine if there had been no fossil fuels. You got lots more dams, hydropower, which you're going to need for your electric cars. And Joel says, you know, because energy would be more scarce and more expensive, we would just conserve more. We'd build smaller houses that would be closer together. And, you know, OK, you want to go to Europe. You just get on a boat. It takes a week. It's OK.

GOLDSTEIN: Or a blimp. You hate blimps.

KESTENBAUM: (Laughter).

GOLDSTEIN: You don't believe it. I believe it. So, OK, that's what Mokyr left us with. Then we talked to David Keith, the physicist, and he - frankly, he's less optimistic than Joel.

KESTENBAUM: Because he'd done the math on a lot of these things. Like, when we asked him, if we dam all the rivers, how much electricity does it actually get us?

KEITH: If you dam - do you want the terawatt units?

KESTENBAUM: Yeah, yeah.

KEITH: If you dam all the rivers in the world, you get a few terawatts. And currently, humanity uses like 16 or 18 terawatts. So all the rivers in the world are only maybe a quarter of the total energy we're using today.

KESTENBAUM: And David Keith raised this problem that I had not even thought of - what are you going to build those dams out of - concrete? Steel? Both of those things require a lot of energy to make. Like, you know how we make steel? In a very, very hot furnace heated by fossil fuels. And by the way, thinking about trains, he said, sure, you could run the trains on wood, but how are you going to build the tracks and the train? What are you going to make those out of?

GOLDSTEIN: And on top of that, all these - all these advances we're talking about come from scientific knowledge. And we got that scientific knowledge in part because of fossil fuels because we had all this easy energy that let us advance to a place where there were people, scientists and engineers, who had time to sit around and tinker and figure things out.

KESTENBAUM: Even wind power, he says.

KEITH: Wind power does get you tens of terawatts. You could power all of modern civilization on wind power. But the question is, could you build modern wind turbines without the kind of fossil-fueled economy to get you started? Because modern wind turbines are fantastic things - huge, steel shaft, you know, almost 100-meter long blades made out of fiberglass, beautifully shaped.

KESTENBAUM: But can you build something that's just good enough, you know, to get you the...

KEITH: Maybe.

KESTENBAUM: ...Electricity you needed back in the 1800s to do whatever the next step was?

KEITH: Maybe. If the central question is, could we have tunneled through from an old biofuel-based civilization to a post-fossil civilization like we now want to get to without fossil, and if we could tunnel through, what would be the best way, it might be that a gradual development of wind power is it. Wind power you can just keep incrementally doing better. After all, we've had wind machines for a thousand years.

GOLDSTEIN: In a way, the question we've been asking for this whole show, you know, how would history have unfolded without fossil fuels, it boils down to something really simple. Are we where we are today because we're lucky or because we're smart?

KESTENBAUM: We asked Joel and David both where they stood on that. Joel Mokyr told us that based on his entire career, his life's work as a historian, he thinks we are where we are because we're smart.

MOKYR: What's driving modern history is not fuel or fossil fuel or oil. What is driving it is human ingenuity, and, you know, human ingenuity would've come up with an alternative set of solutions. And they would not have been, I think, noticeably worse than the one we ended up with. And in some ways, perhaps better. That's my position.

KESTENBAUM: David Keith, our scientist, started out sounding very similar.

KEITH: As much as I'm an energy geek and I think all about energy, the ultimate power source is people working collaboratively to figure stuff out. That's where technology comes from.

KESTENBAUM: Oh, come on.

GOLDSTEIN: (Laughter).

KEITH: It is. It is. That's not bullshit. It's true.

GOLDSTEIN: That's such a cheesy thing for a scientist to say.

KEITH: It's cheesy, but it's true.

KESTENBAUM: After David Keith was done praising humanity for our incredible ability to work together and be innovative, he then went on to say that he thought fossil fuels had really helped us.

GOLDSTEIN: Yeah, I mean, he said, sure, eventually we would have gotten to a world something like the world we live in today. But it would have taken longer. Things would have gone more slowly.

KESTENBAUM: How much slower?

KEITH: My instinct is, like, 10 times slower, much slower is my off the cuff. You know, this is total speculation.

KESTENBAUM: Wow, that's a big deal.

KEITH: Yeah. No, I mean, it's - I mean, getting access to fossil fuels is such a game changer.

GOLDSTEIN: So it would have taken hundreds more years to get to where we are now.

KEITH: Yeah.

GOLDSTEIN: Fair enough.

KESTENBAUM: The truth is, we do live in a world with fossil fuels. And David Keith says fossil fuels have given us a lot. In fact, they've brought us to a point where we now have the technology to live without fossil fuels. There are a lot of detailed questions about how you'd do it, and it would take some time, but you could get rid of fossil fuels. And he said the world would look basically the same.


SMITH: David and Jacob, that is a lovely way to end the oil series. But there was one part of the journey that Stacey and I wanted to share with you before this is over. And it's a part that Stacey didn't talk about very much because she was somewhat embarrassed by.

VANEK SMITH: Oh, yeah.

SMITH: Every single time we interviewed someone, Stacey had a very unusual line of questioning. So, for instance, she was talking this guy Vince Bengston who works at the refinery, and she tried to link our oil with a certain delicious ice cream treat.

VANEK SMITH: So is there corn around here?


VANEK SMITH: So feed corn.

BENGSTON: Feed corn as in cattle feed corn is what you're referring to? A lot of it's crushed for cattle food, yes.

VANEK SMITH: So if we, like, drink a milkshake, would that potentially be a cow that was fed with feed corn that was fertilized with our oil?

BENGSTON: Yeah, yes.

VANEK SMITH: So we could drink our oil in a milkshake.


SMITH: Every single time.

VANEK SMITH: (Laughter) OK. The milkshake obsession - this is from a very iconic scene in a great movie about American oil called "There Will Be Blood." And in the scene, Daniel Day Lewis is explaining how he can steal his neighbor's oil.

SMITH: With basically a giant straw.

VANEK SMITH: It's an amazing scene.


DANIEL DAY-LEWIS: (As Daniel Plainview) I drink your milkshake. I drink it up.

PAUL DANO: (As Eli Sunday) Don't bully me, Daniel.

VANEK SMITH: And then he beats him to death with a bowling pin, I think.

SMITH: (Laughter) I tried to explain to you, Stacey, that this is a metaphor, but you were very insistent that we show up at a Dairy Queen in Council Bluffs and try and drink our own milkshake.

VANEK SMITH: They're making fun of me, but you know that this is exactly where the oil should end, right?

SMITH: (Laughter) Yes, it should end with me drinking your milkshake.

VANEK SMITH: No, it should end with me drinking your milkshake.

SMITH: Three, two, one, go.


VANEK SMITH: Are we in a contest because there are...

SMITH: No, no, it's not a contest.

VANEK SMITH: ...Like, 14 ounces of this.

SMITH: (Laughter).


VANEK SMITH: It's so good.

SMITH: This is going to take a while, so we're going to toss it back to David and Jacob for the end of the show.


KESTENBAUM: Let us know what you think. You can send us email. We are planetmoney@npr.org.

GOLDSTEIN: Or you can find us on Twitter or Facebook. The show today was produced by Jess Jiang and Nick Fountain. Jiang did the meat. Fountain did the bread. Also this week, we are doing a brief survey to learn more about you, to learn more about who is listening to PLANET MONEY. You can take it at npr.org/planetmoneysurvey. It would be a big favor to us if you could do Kestenbaum, this is it.

KESTENBAUM: Don't say it.

GOLDSTEIN: We got to do it now. This is the end.

KESTENBAUM: The end of my time at PLANET MONEY.

GOLDSTEIN: You're leaving PLANET MONEY. You got a job at "This American Life" - mazel tov.

KESTENBAUM: I'm going to call you every five minutes. I'm going to miss this place. I'm going to miss all you guys.

GOLDSTEIN: I - the thing I want to say is thank you. I always wanted to have a mentor, and I never had one. And now that you're leaving, I realize it was you. You taught me how to do this.

KESTENBAUM: Thank you. It's so not true. You know, I mean...

GOLDSTEIN: When came here, I didn't know how to make podcasts. I worked with you, and now I know how to make a podcast.

KESTENBAUM: You know that's not proof.

GOLDSTEIN: It's causal.

KESTENBAUM: A sequence of events does not - yeah.

GOLDSTEIN: It really - I loved working with you. I really, like...

KESTENBAUM: Stop using the past tense. I love working with you. I love you, man. Cut that last part. It's just too sad.

Copyright © 2016 NPR. All rights reserved. Visit our website terms of use and permissions pages at www.npr.org for further information.

NPR transcripts are created on a rush deadline by Verb8tm, Inc., an NPR contractor, and produced using a proprietary transcription process developed with NPR. This text may not be in its final form and may be updated or revised in the future. Accuracy and availability may vary. The authoritative record of NPR’s programming is the audio record.